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Chamber announces restructure; kicks off membership drive

By BETH ALSTON
beth.alston@americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS — The Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce held a “relaunch” of its division restructure recently in front of the Rees Park Economic Development Center. Jimmy Buffet music blasted while business owners and other community leaders donned Hawaiian leis and sunglasses, some even wearing Parrot head hats.
The new division structure  affords the Chamber the opportunity to offer a broader range of services to member businesses, and focuses on membership, business development, governmental affairs, special events, leadership development and education.
The event also kicked off a membership drive with a goal of 100 new members. Several fun events are planned during the next month.
The new structure, a Jimmy Buffet “Changes and Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” theme guides the campaign, which includes a Nautical Wheelers Parade and Bed Race on First Friday, June 3; the Lost Shaker of Salt Scavenger Hunt the week of June 6; a Coconut Telegraph Speed Networking Event on June 15;  and finalizes with a Buffet Bash on June 23.
In support of efforts to grow businesses in downtown Americus, the Chamber has worked with the City of Americus and downtown partners to host the Nautical Wheelers Parade Bed Race during on First Friday.   Participants stage behind City Hall, parade along Lamar Street beginning at 6 p.m., and race beds along Cotton Avenue beginning at 6:30 p.m. Only one lane of Lamar Street will be closed during the course of the parade and will reopen immediately following. Once done, the participants and spectators will visit with our downtown merchants and continue to enjoy First Friday.
The Chamber invites the public to enter their Jimmy Buffet bed in the race, and invite friends and family. The City of Americus will provide $100 of Downtown Dollars for the winners For more information, call at 229-924-2646.
Jay Roberts, chairman of the Chamber board, explained the reason for the restructure.
“We’re trying to meet the community’s needs,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the past with our leadership program and membership drives, but we really want to boost membership more. This is all just kicking it into a higher gear.”
Roberts  says the membership drive is designed to get others to join and help the Chamber, and the community, grow and create jobs
“We’ve had a lot of success here lately with some of our downtown development,” he said, “beautification products; a Renaissance project ongoing right now. We just a hired a new tourism director for Americus and Sumter County. We just a hired a new Main Street director for Americus and are getting ready to hire a new marketing person for our Chamber. All of this is to boost the success we’ve had recently.”
For a community as small as Americus and Sumter County, having a detailed mission is very important to recruit business and retain jobs, according to Roberts.
“Our divisions include things like business development. We’re going to help our businesses grow and develop and get exposed to visitors and people here in town. Our education committee is going to work hard to help boost our education, up our graduation rates. Leadership is one big thing that all communities need. We’re going to tweak our leadership programs and they’ll evolve into something a little bit bigger than what we’ve had in the past.
“As far as our membership, we do want to grow it. We also want to retain the members we have, to help the businesses we have here to continue to be successful.”
That, as a Chamber of Commerce, is vital to the local economy, Roberts said.
“Our downtown has thrived for a years. We continue to have a lot of success downtown. We’ve had some new businesses open up in the past month; we have a few more that are on the way. We want to help make all those successful. The more success we can generate with our business partners in Sumter County, that will help us grow jobs.”